B.C. appetite for pot reform riding high: Poll

Two-thirds now endorse marijuana legalization, pollster says that number has climbed over the years

Support for legalization of marijuana has grown in B.C. over the years.

Support for legalization of marijuana has grown in B.C. over the years.

B.C. has a strong appetite for marijuana reform with more than 70 per cent of respondents to a new poll urging either legalization or decriminalization.

The Insights West survey found 67 per cent said they support outright legalization, 28 per cent opposed it and five per cent were undecided.

Support was slightly stronger among women, the under-35 age group and Vancouver Island residents, but at least 65 per cent back legalization in every region and within each age group.

“There’s a lot of support for this,” said Insights West vice-president Mario Canseco.

He said the results are a climb from about 55 per cent support in B.C. a decade ago, and follows legalization moves in U.S. states and a growing number of B.C. public figures endorsing reform over the years.

A separate question asked respondents which pot reform option most closely fit their views.

Legalization was on top with 38 per cent, while 24 per cent said it should be decriminalized, 27 per cent said it should only be available for medical purposes, and seven per cent want it to always be illegal.

Asked about the pros and cons of legalization, 87 per cent said taxing pot would generate useful revenues and more than three-quarters said cannabis has legitimate medical and health benefits, existing dispensaries are a safer method of access than drug dealers, and that legalization would let police focus on other priorities. Sixty-seven per cent believed gang violence tied to the illegal drug trade would decline.

Presented with a list of arguments against legalization, the top concern cited by 58 per cent was that it would result in more drug-impaired driving.

Relatively few (35 per cent or less) agreed with concerns expressed by federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose – that legalization would increase risks of mental illness such as schizophrenia in some users and lead to greater use among children and teens.

More than two-thirds of those polled endorsed the City of Vancouver decision to regulate existing medical marijuana dispensaries that sell pot illegally there rather than shut them down as Ambrose urged.

Canseco said the tough talk from Ambrose in recent weeks is likely aimed at buffing the Tories tough-on-crime reputation to hang onto Conservative votes elsewhere in Canada leading up to this fall’s federal election.

“I don’t think she was appealing to the B.C. voters,” he said. “I think she was appealing to the hard core Conservative base in other parts of the country that don’t want to see this legalized.”

Health Canada last week announced it will now let approved commercial producers of medical marijuana make and sell cannabis oil – in addition to dried bud – but not other edible products such as pot brownies and cookies.

That move followed a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in June that it is unconstitutional for the government to limit access to medical marijuana to just the dried form.

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